Double standards

Why are fantasies written by and for men not judged as harshly as romance? asks Doreen DeSalvo, romance author and publisher. According to DeSalvo, women are tired of being judged for what they choose to read and write.


How is romance portrayed in the media?

I still hear the mass media use the phrase “bodice ripper.” I mean, come on, that’s like from the 1970s. You know, you probably were not even born when they were first using that phrase, and it still sticks around. And again, I find it very denigrating to women, and to the choices that they make in their reading material. Romance still becomes the genre everybody is going to snicker at, and poke fun at, and I just kind of ignore that, because I don’t want to focus on it and become bitter. You know, we’re laughing all the way to the bank, right?

Nobody makes fun of men’s adventure novels, right? This middle-aged accountant will go on some kind of fantastical adventure, and you know, create all these MacGyver-like devices, and defeat the Communists, and get the really hot 20-year-old woman while he’s at it. Nobody makes fun of that! That’s how genre works, right? If I read a mystery, I wanna know the villain will come to justice at the end, in some form. If I read romance, I want to know there will be a fulfilling ending where there’s a level of commitment to each other, if only happily for now. Even if it’s not happily ever after, I’m okay with happily for now.

Women are really tired of being judged for their reading material. I often say about romance, “Nothing will ensure a genre is denigrated faster than it being written by, and for, women.” There’s still, you know, rampant and pervasive sexism. Unfortunately women’s interests are still really denigrated in our society.

And I think one of the most important messages of romance is that the decision a woman makes about who she’s going to share her life with is probably the most important decision she will ever make in her life. And you will never hear a man say that. But for women, that’s really true. Men might say, “It’s where I got my first job,” but women will say, “It was choosing my first husband,” you know? And I think romance as a genre validates, for women, yes, your feeling that this is important is legitimate. It is important, and here’s a character to whom it’s also very important.

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